When it comes to interviews, you can never be too prepared. You should research the company by reading the website, media coverage of its work and reviews on sites like Glassdoor. Whenever possible, network with current and former employees to better understand the company and the needs of the role. The insights you glean from this research will help you talk about your skills and qualifications in the interview.
Writing out answers to possible questions can be helpful in collecting your thoughts. However, interview practice is most effective when your answers are rehearsed aloud. This, and trying out different variations of your responses out loud, can help you finesse your answers and build confidence in your delivery. Whether you practice with a career development advisor or at home with a friend, here are five crucial questions you should be ready to answer.
1. “Tell us a little bit about yourself.” This is usually the first question in an interview. This question can throw candidates off the first couple of times they have to answer it in an interview setting. This is why it should be the first thing you practice. This is your pitch! This is your chance to introduce yourself and begin outlining your qualifications for the role in terms of education, skills and experience. Remember that this question is asking about you professionally. It’s not the time to give the interviewer a list of personal traits or your life story. Instead, describe your recent professional experience. Talk about your field of study, a few key skills, your primary professional interests and a brief note about any relevant internships or professional positions you’ve held. You can also mention your favorite hobby or pastime, if it seems appropriate.
2. “What are your qualifications for this job?” This is sometimes phrased as “walk me through your résumé.” Providing a good answer requires you to know the job posting and any additional information you’ve gathered about the role. On the day of your interview, read through the job posting a few times to ensure you’re well prepared for this question. In your answer, talk about your education, skills and experience as they directly relate to the qualifications and specific job duties related to the role. You began making a case for your candidacy in general terms when you told the interviewer about yourself; this is where you are able to dig in and give specifics.
3. “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” This question (or questions, as they are sometimes asked separately) can be a source of anxiety for many of us. But it doesn’t have to be if you understand and practice how to answer it. For the strengths part, be ready to talk about three of your strengths. If you have taken CliftonStrengths, you already have five good answers. If you haven’t taken this assessment, talk to a career development advisor about taking CliftonStrengths for free. In your answer, name the strength (for example, communication), and give a brief example of how it shows up for you professionally. You might give a specific example of when your communication has worked for you, or you could briefly identify a common professional situation where your communication avoids issues or actively solves problems.
For the weakness portion, people often give a set of clichéd platitudes about working too hard, caring too much or being too detail-oriented. This type of answer is neither helpful nor impressive. Instead, consider what your main professional weakness would be in regards to this role. Name that weakness, and tell the interviewer two things you’ve been doing to try to mitigate it already and one thing you will need from your manager to help you continue improving. This answer demonstrates that you possess the self-awareness to assess your performance and identify shortcomings, as well as the responsibility and motivation to improve.
4. “Tell us about a time when…”. Behavioral questions like this one ask the candidate to tell a story about a time when a common professional situation has actually happened to them, and how it turned out. A good framework for answering these questions is the STARS technique:
Situation: Set the stage. Provide an overview, being specific and succinct.
Task: Describe the goal you were working to achieve.
Action: Describe your actions and the steps you took.
Result: Describe the outcome, if possible. This is your time to take credit for your work.
Self-Reflection: Share what you learned and if you would have done anything differently.
This technique should only be used to answer behavioral questions that are asking for a narrative. If you try to answer a skills-based question about your experience with a software package or lab technique with the STARS framework, your interviewer will be both confused and bored!
The goal of the STARS technique is not to turn you into an interview robot, but to allow you to tell a complete and concise story without leaving out any pertinent details or crucial elements. It can also help you avoid going off on a tangent. The final self-reflection step is important because it allows you to reflect on your past actions and suggest ways that you would do things differently in the future, or articulate important professional lessons you learned from that experience.
5. “Do you have any questions for us?” Yes! For every interview, you should prepare at least five questions to ask the interviewer. Consider things that you aren’t able to discover from your prior research. Maybe you want to know more information about the job or the team. Or more about how your manager views this role – what does success look like? What does the day-to-day look like? What is the difference between someone who is good in this role and someone who is great? What do they think will be the greatest challenge for the next person in this role? You might want to know how long people generally stay in this role, and what they do afterward. Perhaps you are curious as to how the organization sees this role or your team developing in the future. Your questions demonstrate your preparation and engagement. Hiring committees are often very interested in what these questions say about your approach to the specific interview process and to your professional life in general.
“TELL ME ABOUT YOURSELF”
People are more thrown by this question than they should be! This is not the time to break out your life story, family anecdotes. This isn’t a question, but it’s a great way to start things off by creating an open dialogue between you and your potential employer. Your interviewer is looking for an answer that’s about one minute long and summarizes where you are in you career and what you’re especially strong at, usually with an emphasis on your most recent job.
“WHAT INTERESTS YOU ABOUT THIS JOB?”
You’re interested in the work, after all — but you can mess this one up if you focus on something that’s a very small part of the position (thus indicating that you don’t fully understand what the job is all about). Instead, your answer should focus on the substance of the job itself — the work you’d be doing day-to-day and the outcomes you’d be working toward. Interviewers want someone who’s enthusiastic about doing whatever the person will be spending most of their time on.
“TELL ME ABOUT A TIME WHEN . . . ”
Good interviewers will ask multiple versions of the question, filling in the blank with situations and skills that are relevant to the job you’re applying for. To prepare for these types of questions, think about what skills you’re most likely to need in the job and what the challenges of the role are. Then look for “evidence” from your past work experience that shows you’ll excel at this role — examples of how you’ve demonstrated those skills or tackled similar challenges.
“WHAT ARE YOUR BIGGEST STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES”
The strengths part of this is, hopefully, easier: Talk about what would make you really excel at the job. Talking about weaknesses can be trickier and requires some honest reflection beforehand. But make sure you resist the urge to answer with something that you secretly hope will sound good to the interviewer like, “I work too hard,” or, “I’m a perfectionist.” Those answers sound disingenuous, and your interviewer will see right through them.
“DO YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS FOR ME?”
Now it’s your turn! As your job interview comes to a close, one of the final questions you may be asked is, “Do you have any questions for me?” Your interviewer will expect for you to have some inquiries. Not asking any questions could make you seem unprepared or disinterested, so take the time to have some questions of your own ready to ask the hiring manager. Plan ahead and have interview questions of your own ready to ask. You aren’t simply trying to get this job—you are also interviewing the employer to assess whether this company and the position are a good fit for you.
There are a lot of great tools out there to prepare you for your interview. Linkedin is a great resource and here are some articles to get you started:
In order to prepare yourself, I recommend jotting down some of your past experiences. Depending on what type of position you are applying for, identify 5-6 major job duties or aspects and try to think of experiences you've had that relate. Most companies will utilize a behavioral interview, so you will want to organize your answers in a sequence that succinctly summarizes the situation, your specific actions, and the end result. As you think about your end result, of course explain what happened in your specific situation and then try to take it a step further with how your result ties into the big picture.
I am happy to discuss further if you have any questions. Good luck!
Everyone likes a story. So be prepared to be able to answer the interview questions in a story format.
Now-a-days most questions are situational questions. for Ex: tell me about a time when.... and how did you succeed.
So be prepared with your stories. Short and Crisp stories about a time when you had a situation and how you handled it, managed it, succeed or failed in the situation and what you learnt from that situation.
Your takeaway from your situations can speak volumes of the candidate the job is seeking.
Why should we hire you?
Why do you want to work here? (So make sure you do your research on your employer and have these points ready to discuss)
What are your weaknesses? (turn this into a positive somehow. Ie: I'm OCD/organized to a fault)
What are your goals?
If you had a previous job: Why did you leave/leaving your job?
What can you do for us that other candidates can't? (Somethign that separates you/makes you unique)
What are three positive things your instructors or previous employer would say about you?
I hope this helps!
Best of luck!
1. Tell me about yourself.
2. Do you have any questions?
The key is not so much about the questions that they are going to ask, it is the your answer. Make sure your answers are organized and clear.
Also to get more example questions, google interview questions for your specific industry you are interviewing for.
1) Tell me about yourself, what made you want to apply?
2) Do you have any previous experience dealing with the demands of this job?
3) Tell me about your teamwork experience. Do you function well with making decisions with other's input on the process or do you work well alone?
4) Have you ever had a moment where a manager or coworker made a blatant wrong decision and how did you handle it?
5) Any questions for me or about this company or position in particular that I may not have covered?
I like to prepare myself with the one question of what my strength and weaknesses are so that I am prepared to be as transparent as possible with the interviewer. I make sure that my weakness can be seen as a strength in some aspects as well. Best of luck to you!
1) COMFORT- As in how comfortable you are talking about yourself. All the questions above require you to be introspective and be able to convey your strengths, weaknesses, areas for improvement, etc. with confidence.
2) PREPARE - Do you research on the company, the job. Prepare for the questions listed above, not just by reading through them. Write out your answers, say them out loud. You're goal is not to memorize the replies word for word, you're becoming more comfortable with the wording and how you describe yourself.
3) FOCUSED - Your replies should concise, but more importantly, they should address the question they asked. It's easy to start with a story that is related to their question and veer off course. It's ok, try to tie it back to what they asked specifically.
Hope that helps!
Carole recommends the following next steps:
Most interviews I have participated in have been more behavioral interviews so that the person can get to know you on a personal level. However, depending on your field their may be some technical interview questions or maybe a case study. I would prepare by seeing if you could reach out to someone else that works at that company or doing research online. I would also come prepared with questions to ask the person who is interviewing you because at the end of the interview they will ask if you have any questions and your question will show that you are interested in the company and that you prepared well for the interview.